Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Those Big Doors Keep Revolving

A few months ago, we discussed the revolving door that seems to connect US government leadership positions and leadership positions of commercial health care firms. There are other such revolving doors, like two recently discovered just north of here.

State Government to For-Profit Hospitals

As reported by the Boston Herald:
David Morales, a longtime trusted adviser to [Massachusetts] Gov. Deval Patrick, became the latest official to leave the administration as he stepped down from a top health-care post for a private sector gig.

Morales resigned abruptly yesterday to take a position with Steward Health Care System.

Morales worked as a top adviser during the governor’s first term before taking a $128,000-a-year post in 2009 as commissioner of the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy. His resignation was effective yesterday.

Note that we have previously discussed the Steward Health Care System, the new name given to the Caritas Christi system after it was bought out by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Steward's aggressive plan to stamp out "leakage" raised concerns that the new movement to make practicing physicians employees could push them to do what is best for the company's bottom line rather than for patients.

We previously suggested that deals that turn previously non-profit health systems and physicians' practices into for-profit corporations deserve considerable scrutiny. After Caritas became Steward, state government officials promised close oversight. Now Steward has acquired a new executive who has friends in state government.

Non-Profit Health Insurance/ Managed Care by Way of a Political Campaign to Health Care Venture Capital

This story also came from the Boston Herald:
Four months after his failed Massachusetts gubernatorial bid, Charlie Baker has landed a private-sector job at a Cambridge venture capital firm.

The former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO is now an 'executive in residence' for General Catalyst Partners. He’ll focus on working with small and midsize health-care services companies for the VC firm, which has $1.7 billion under management across five funds.

In addition,
Health-related companies already in General Catalyst’s portfolio include iWalk, a Cambridge developer of orthotic and prosthetic devices, and North Carolina-based TearScience, which specializes in diagnostic and treatment devices for evaporative dry eye in addition to several still in stealth mode.

Note that managed care was originally touted as a way to control health care costs, and that the commercial health care insurance companies/ managed care organizations claim to be doing all they can to control costs. Such a focus on cost control would imply that they ought to be able to vigorously negotiate at arms' length with health care providers and drug and device companies.  Now some device companies have acquired a new venture capital overseer who has friends in insurance and managed care.


Not only are there revolving doors connecting the national government and large commercial health firms, but also connecting state government and regional hospital systems, and non-profit health care insurers/ managed care organizations and device companies.

This is just some more evidence that people in the leadership of large health care organizations have more in common with each other, even if their organizations are supposed to be competing or negotiating at arms length, than they have with patients, clients, customers and the public at large. 

The various revolving doors appear not to align the interests of leaders of health care organizations with their organizations' stated missions, or with promoting the health of patients.  To truly reform health care, we need to expose these doors to more sunlight, and then think about retarding their spin or even locking them in place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10211/1076333-454.stm

Mr. Logan's appointment as UPMC community liaison struck a sour note for one local group, Save Our Community Hospitals, which has loudly and repeatedly criticized UPMC's decision to close UPMC Braddock in January. The hospital is in Mr. Logan's district.

"State Sen. Sean Logan, like most of the elected officials in the region, did little or nothing to save Braddock Hospital. In fact, Sen. Logan worked to ensure UPMC's objective of closing and demolishing the hospital," said Tony Buba, chairman of the group's steering committee.

"Now we know why. Mr. Logan has received his '30 pieces of silver' as payoff for his work on UPMC's behalf. Little wonder that he doesn't even mention the Braddock Hospital issue in his press release announcing his new career as vice president for community relations for UPMC. The irony is breathtaking."